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Northfield’s businesses and programs host Earth Day Celebration

On Apr. 27, Northfield welcomed spring with its annual Earth Day Celebration in Armory Square. The event showcased local vendors and businesses, promoting eco-friendly initiatives and their environmentally-conscious products such as accessible composting services and clothing made from upcycled fabrics. 

Grace Brosnan is the worker-owner of the Curbside Compost Cooperative. The group aims to make composting more accessible in the Northfield community and divert organic waste from the landfill. 

“What’s really nice about the [compost] buckets is that they make the service super accessible so someone doesn’t have to have a backyard and a compost pile,” Brosnan said. “People just put their food waste in a bucket and it really adds up in a week or two. [The food waste] all goes to a site in Shakopee to get composted and made into a really high quality product. I think over our like seven years of collecting, we’ve diverted at least 1.5 million pounds of food waste from the landfill in Northfield.”

“This means way less methane getting emitted because food waste in the landfill is one of the biggest producers of methane in the US, and methane is a really potent greenhouse gas,” she said.“It’s pretty cool that just building up these habits can really benefit the environment.”

“A really important aspect of the composting process is allowing the microbes to get enough oxygen,” she added. “And when they don’t get enough oxygen, which is what happens in a landfill, when you have the food waste getting compacted in lots of trash and stuff like that. Oxygen can’t get in.”

“What happens is that the pile ‘goes anaerobic,”’ Brosnan continued. “The bacteria start eating the compost, and [doesn’t] require oxygen. What happens then is that they emit methane, and that’s a flammable gas. So it’s just getting emitted in landfills. In addition to [methane] being, I think, something like 40 times more powerful than [carbon dioxide] as a greenhouse gas, so it’s really bad when it goes to the landfill.”

“And when you compost the food waste instead, compost becomes a really useful product for landscaping, gardening, growing food, anything like that,” she explained. “Compost is a product that retains water super well so it helps reduce runoff. It can hold a lot more water [JUMP] in it than normal dirt. And when you’re in a drought, it’s pretty important that anytime it rains that water doesn’t just immediately run off into the river.”

The cooperative provides buckets and compostable bags in which people can collect food waste and leave on the curbside for pickup. The cost  ranges from $5 to $25, depending on how much someone can afford. Choosing a higher tier means that the group can offer lower prices and free subscriptions to those who cannot afford a monthly fee and give Curbside Composting Cooperative  the resources to create more high-paying, green jobs in the Cannon River area. 

In addition to the Curbside Composting Cooperative, Northfield’s Earth Day Celebration also showcased Boomerang Bags as well as upcycled clothing made by Kathryn Ness, CEO and Head Scrounger of KNessDesigns.

“I haven’t bought new fabric for years now,” Ness said. “I get plenty from people just cleaning out their grandma’s closet. And there’s all kinds of fabric, so they give it to me or I get my jeans from the Clothes Closet, the ones that they can’t sell. And they have a recycling facility that they send stuff to. But I keep it here and make it into something else. I make jackets and purses, and [Northfield volunteers] make baskets. There’s just no need to buy new fabrics when there’s enough fabric to go around that it’s not being used or it would go into the dump.”

Ness makes each piece of clothing by hand,  collecting fabric samples and recycled materials to create unique pieces. In addition, according to Ness’ website, Northfield volunteers have sewn over 4,000 Boomerang Bags made from donated fabric. Because Boomerang Bags are more sturdy than plastic bags, if each Boomerang Bag is used to haul groceries or books one time a week, this equals two fewer single use plastic bags per week. Adding up, this equals to 8,000 less plastic bags used each week. 

Ness and her team aims to reduce one-use plastic bags and non-recyclable items, partner with local groups to create these reusable bags at little or no cost, and create other upcycled items to support the cost of making Boomerang Bags. 

Jeanne Hatle, the manager of the Clothes Closet thrift store, adds, “There’s a couple of places I’ve been to in the cities. One is the textile center in Minnesota and they have what they call garage sales. People bring stuff and they sell it for fundraisers, but there’s also places up in the Cities. one place is called Art Scraps, you can just bring all of your extra things, and then other people can come in and get them.”

Clothes Closet is part of the Community Action Center, which has locations in Northfield and Faribult. The CAC engages with volunteers and the local community to ensure access to food, housing, feminine hygiene and  school supplies, as well as advocating for environmental sustainability.

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